International Thespian Officers (ITO) are elected by their peers to represent student voices in the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA) and International Thespian Society (ITS). These six Thespians will devote the next year to help nurture student leaders, advocate for the arts, be a voice for students with EdTA staff, and so much more. They’ll work with chapter leaders and collaborate with Thespians from around the globe.

The six new ITO are (in alphabetic order by last name):
1. Addison Blumberg, Pennsbury High School, Troupe 830, Pennsylvania
2. Rosanna Gao, Great Neck South High School, Troupe 7486, New York
3. Jenny Hackenberger, Milwaukie Academy of the Arts, Troupe 75, Oregon
4. Alexandra (Alex) Holder, Pulaski Academy, Troupe 7055, Arkansas
5. Simran Jain, Springfield Township High School, Troupe 1154, Pennsylvania
6. Jarrett Stewart, Sunnyvale High School, Troupe 7532, Texas

You can follow the ITO on Instagram @Thespian Society. You can email the ITO at: [email protected]

As part of their application to become an ITO, each candidate was asked to choose which EdTA Core Value resonates most with them:

• People Matter
• Strive for Excellence
• Work Together
• Be the Person You Want to Work With

Addison Blumberg ITO 2021-22

Addison Blumberg, Pennsbury High School, Troupe 830, Pennsylvania
Addison values and upholds all the EdTA core values, she explained in her application. The one value which most resonates with her is that people matter, both on and off the stage. “With every successful performance, the production would not be possible without everyone feeling valued and respected. From the workers in the sound booth, to the ensemble member portraying tree #3,” Addison says.

She directed high school thespians in a performance for elementary students. They performed a children’s play entitled, “Peggy the Pint-Sized Pirate.” Addison said in her application, “Peggy is a tiny, wannabe pirate who overcomes her bullies and is the heroine of the story. Through theatrical experiences like this, both actors and audience members gain the understanding and appreciation that all people matter.”

Rosanna Gao International Thespian Officer 2021-22

Rosanna Gao, Great Neck South High School, Troupe 7486, New York
Rosanna chose two core values that equally resonate with her: Work Together and Strive for Excellence.
She shared a story about participating in a prestigious musical competition for five years before winning any kind of award. Year after year, she didn’t give up on her passion and her dream.

Here’s what Rosanna says about working together, “Performing with cast members allows me to collaborate with others. On stage, one of us might forget our lines or the harmony is off, but we work together to continue. The cast and crew are like family to me. In rehearsals, there have been times when we all don’t agree on something, but we share our ideas and allow everyone to give input. Working together helps me realize my strengths and weaknesses.” She values the process of seeing how each person brings unique skills. And how each person contributes to the success of the whole group.

Jenny Hackenberger International Thespian Officer 2021-22Jenny Hackenberger, Milwaukie Academy of the Arts, Troupe 75, Oregon
Jenny shared how she’s fallen prey to the fear that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Who among us hasn’t felt that way at one time  We can relate! Jenny says, “‘Work Together’ is a core value that I had to grow into. And now it resonates with me the most! No matter how strong an individual is, being part of a strong team will always make that individual better.”

Jenny shared this story on her application about finding a way to work together to solve a problem: “Last year, as I was directing at the local middle school, we were running into problems with deadlines and memorization. It would have been easy to get angry, but instead we decided to talk with the middle schoolers. We discovered the problem was their school deadlines were a lot of pressure. We were able to change our expectations and set a more reasonable deadline for the memorization. This communication helped to better our overall synergy as a cast and as a team. It also showed the importance of being assertive as well as understanding.”

Alex Holder International Thespian Officer 2021-22Alexandra (Alex) Holder, Pulaski Academy, Troupe 7055, Arkansas
Alexandra, aka Alex, honestly admitted that there was a time when the instruction to ‘Work Together’ would evoke visions of only a few being willing to do the work that many would get credit for completing. She learned that the key to successfully working together is partnering with people as passionate as herself. She said, “During the past few years, in my experience with leadership and advocacy, I’ve learned how beneficial teams are. Working with like-minded people to achieve a common goal is pretty liberating compared to working alone. Mixing my extrovert self with the emotions and needs of others, all the while setting and accomplishing goals, has become something I truly enjoy.

While it used to be something that I dreaded, I believe that being part of a team and leading teams is one of my greatest strengths. Being able to work efficiently and effectively is so satisfying to me. I love the give and take in conversation. Most of all, I love working with people who love theatre and advocating for it as much as I do it. Passionate teams who love tackling goals and seeing them through to completion are able to truly make a difference.”

Simran Jain International Thespian Officer 2021-22

Simran Jain, Springfield Township High School, Troupe 1154, Pennsylvania
“I’ve been an avid believer in the EdTA Core Values for years, and I keep them in mind in my daily routine. Although it’s difficult to pick a favorite, the one that resonates most with me is ‘Strive for Excellence.’ My freshman year in high school, I took a risk and auditioned for the lead role in our spring musical. I wasn’t cast in that role, and yet I learned a great deal about taking risks and going beyond my comfort zone,” said Simran. She explained in her application that the lesson, she learned, was far more valuable than winning the role.

A second hard lesson was running for an officer position in the school’s government program and not winning the position. Simran said, “I thought that I failed in achieving success.” If only she could’ve seen the future at that moment of feeling failure! She went on to share in her application, “Something within me came up this year, and I ran for an even bigger position at the state level. The courage and determination proved to be worth it when I won first chair in the state. By being open to what the future held and persevering, I ended up achieving something even more prestigious and incredible! This experience taught me to stay patient and work hard for greatness.”

Jarrett Stewart International Thespian Officer 2021-22 Jarrett Stewart, Sunnyvale High School, Troupe 7532, Texas 

“Although all the core values resonate with me, I most strongly believe that ‘People Matter.’ I motivate members of my troupe to get involved in other areas of the school to find opportunities to grow outside of theatre. Motivating them to use the skills theatre has taught them in other activities. I’m also a huge believer in community service and know that nothing is more valuable than what you can do for others. I have spent more than 300 hours volunteering. I try my hardest to provide volunteer opportunities to the students in my troupe to have a troupe that gives back.

A cool program Jarret co-created is the troupe buddy check-in system. He said in his application, “Every person is assigned a buddy. Each buddy is given tasks to check in on each other. These tasks can range from making sure their buddy is awake on competition days to checking in to make sure their buddy has drunk enough water for the day.” 

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